twitter-logoWhen I wanted to look into the benefits of using Twitter to promote your forums, I did an account search, looking for words like forums, forum, boards, board, community, etc. The most followed account at the time, back in March, was the rkforums account, for the Raisingkids Forums. They are part of the network, owned by The Walt Disney Company.

The rkforums account has been used to showcase recent activity on the forums, linking to new threads through an RSS feed that is posted through Twitterfeed. To get an insider’s perspective on the value of this type of integration, I spoke with Michael Howard, the administrator of the Raisingkids Forums.

“I streamed the forum feeds into Twitter to see if there was any interest,” Michael said. “I fully expected to get told off for spamming because I set Twitterfeed to the maximum amount of postings (5 every half an hour) – but because we’ve got a fast moving forum, I thought that it would be OK as the content posted to Twitter is always new and different. I’ve had no complaints yet and people can always vote with their feet by ‘unfollowing’ us.”

Approved by the company’s legal team, the account started off as only posting entries from the forums automatically, Michael has begun posting manual tweets, as well, including the promotion of competitions and the monitoring of mentions of the rkforums account on Twitter, in order to engage in conversations and answer questions.

The account follows over 1,800 people, but all following has been done manually with the goal of targeting people that are passionate about the issues that are tackled on the Raisingkids Forums. Michael would like to follow additional people, but Twitter has capped the account’s ability to do so.

Traffic through the account has been minimal thus far – with an average of a little over 10 unique visitors a day coming into the site, the investment of time has been relatively small and it’s just one more way that they can get the content of the community out into a new medium, where some of their members – or prospective members – may want it.

From my perspective, one of the only issues I can think of with an integration like this is the risk of spam (or worse, such as vulgar or inappropriate thread titles) being posted into the account’s Twitter stream. But, for his part, this issue has proven moot to Michael. “I view it as a worthwhile risk, the signal to noise ratio is excellent (fingers crossed) on our forum and any spam is taken down pretty quickly.”

Many communities already have MySpace pages or Facebook fan pages – satellite representations of their brand or their community, if you will. It’s natural that Twitter would fit in line with that. As Michael said, the beauty of Twitter is that you can follow – or unfollow – anyone that you’d like. So, if people want to receive new post notifications through Twitter, this provides them with that opportunity, leading to additional traffic. If they aren’t interested in it, then they won’t follow the account. But, I think it’s definitely a worthwhile endeavor and something to consider for your own community.

Question: Does your forum or online community have a Twitter account? If so, what have your experiences been with it?